The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has got a head start in the elections to the 19-member local municipal council by winning five wards (1, 5, 8, 12, and 13) unopposed.
The winners include a Scheduled Caste (SC) woman and a Backward Class (BC) representative. The Congress nomination papers in these wards were rejected, for their caste certificates were issued by tehsildar, and not subdivisional magistrate (SDM) or higher officers who are competent authority.
The Congress objection, that the certificates were valid in the last civic elections, was not considered, like in the other towns. The Congress members whose papers were rejected plan to move court, but by the time these cases are decided, it's the next MC polls usually.
For now, 14 of the 19 seats are open, and both the SAD and the Congress have fielded candidates in these wards. They have direct contest in 12 wards, triangular fight in another; and multi-cornered battle in the one area remaining. The BJP is supporting the Akalis on all seats, unlike Tarn Taran, where the two alliance partners face each other.
The local BJP was reported to be supporting the Cong secretly after the Tarn Taran conflict, but on Tuesday local bodies minister Anil Joshi (BJP) and food and supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon (SAD), whose writ runs in Patti, met and Joshi declared full support to the Akalis in Patti.
In many towns, the Akalis and the BJP are contesting as rivals and not partners; but here Kairon has the all-powerful group with free hand given by his party. Harmeet Singh Sandhu and Virsa Singh Valtohra, Akali legislators in the adjoining assembly constituencies of Tarn Taran and Khem Karan, respectively, keep off Patti, aware that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal will not take kindly to anyone's interfering in his son-in-law's domain.
Kairon and his wife, Preneet Kaur, CM's daughter, run the campaign from their house in Kairon village nearby. The CM's daughter is expected visit Patti in the next two or three days. Winning here is important for the Kairon family, as the adversaries within the SAD have accused the minister of ignoring his constituency. In the last assembly elections, he had scraped through by 52 votes against Congress rival Harminder Singh Gill after trailing by 4,000 votes in Patti.
Even in the last Lok Sabha elections, Gill as Congress candidate from Khadoor Sahib had a lead of more than 5,000 votes from the town.
The current election here is a clash between Kairon and Gill in fact, as both lead the respective campaigns of their parties. Gill, who has a good rapport with the local people, is looking for that one victory as foothold to dig in for long innings.
Aware of it, the Akalis have pulled up their socks. With five seats in kitty even before the contest, the Akalis need just another five to secure a majority in the 19-member MC House, but Gill is determined to make Kairon and his men fight for every inch.
In the last MC polls, Patti had 15 seats. The SAD won eight without contest, and bagged four of the rest, as the Congress took three. Not much has changed in Patti indeed since the last elections-the roads remain bad; sewerage is still not laid in all areas; and there is no fixed place for dumping garbage.
A solid-waste management plant and proper bus stand are urgent requirements. Considering its VIP status, the town should not lack basic civic amenities. The senior citizens here talk of the times of former chief minister Partap Singh Kairon, when they had all basic facilities. He made Patti first subdivision of the-then undivided Punjab and gave it a full-fledged prison, being aware of the difficulties the families who had to travel to Amritsar to visit the prisoners there.
No MC building
The local municipal council required an office of its own. It operates from a rented first floor in a congested market. All visitors have to take the stairs. The MC's old office was demolished in 2006. The-then Congress government sanctioned `68 lakh for a new office on the spot but to this day, the project hasn't moved and no one knows where that money has gone. The open site of the old office has turned a garbage dump.
NO permanent SDM :
Another demand of the residents is for posting a regular Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) level officer here. For the last 2-3 years, the ADC (general) of Tarn Taran district has been discharging the duties of the SDM. This often leads to a great deal of inconvenience for the residents as the officiating SDM is not always available and files remaining pending in his office awaiting his signatures.
Poor road condition :
The roads inside the town are in bad shape with pot holes, some of which are large enough to even cause accidents of two wheelers. It is particularly a bumpy ride in the area where the bus stand is located. Even in the new residential colonies, bricks have been used for building the roads.
Sewerage system, drinking water and flooding :
The sewerage network is still being laid in the town. Despite the project having begun over two years back, it seems nowhere near completion. A majority of the new residential colonies are still without sewers. This includes the so-called post Garden Colony. When it rains, it is impossible to move around in this area on foot as it gets flooded, as there is no outlet for the water to drain out. Even in the old town, flooding is a major problem during monsoons, as the drainage system being very old has virtually collapsed or has been choked with garbage and plastic. Then the drink water facilities are inadequate, with a number of households having there own pumping sets and water storage systems. A large sized water tankg for water storage was built some years back but till date it has not been put into operation.
Health services lacking :
The Civil Hospital here does not have all the services but to shortage of doctors, particularly the specialists. There is no surgeon, those two posts exit. There is a deaddiction centre but it remains shut due to want of patients. It is not that the town and the areas in its vicinity do not have drug addictions. There are plenty of them but due to lack of awareness, they just refused to come to get themselves treated. The police as well as the administration rarely goes out to the countryside to create awareness about drugs and how these ruin families.
As this town is surrounded by villages and a number of its residents are still into farming, the town lacks specialised veterinary services for milch cattle. A couple of years back, that is in 2006, the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University had decided to setup a regional centre in Patti, but the project was grounded when the government changed in 2007.
Fruit processing centre :
Patti as a lot many pear orchards on its periphery and in the villages nearby. A number of those owning these orchards reside in Patti. It will be helpful if a pear processing centre is setup here b the government.
Bus stand and encroachments :
The town needs a new bus stand, preferably on the outskirts. The present one is in a congested area, as a result most of buses remain parked on the road side, often leading to traffic jams. Encroachment of roads by shopkeepers and rehriwalas is cause of hinderance for smooth movement of traffic.
No fire tenders :
The town also does not have a fire fighting service and is without even a single fire tender. Just last week a fire broke out in a local tent house and completely gutted it. Fire tenders are also needed as over the years there have been a number of incidents of ripened wheat crop being destroyed in fires caused by electric sparks from overhead loose electric connections.
Wish List :
1. Jasmine Kaur (resident):
Roads here are in a deplorable condition. We are living in a posh area of the town, that is Garden Colony and you can see the condition of out roads. Bricks have been laid and there is no proper road and at places the roads within out colony are 'kucha'. If this is the condition of a post colony, then imagine the condition in other areas.
2. Naseeb Kaur (housewife):
Just before the election announcement, the sewerage system in our area began to be laid but work was stopped soon after, the excuse given was poll code is now in force. Though they have promised to complete the work after the polls, but I have my doubts because we may elect a Congress councilor. Discrimination in development is quite common here, which must go, no matter who comes in power.
3)Dalbir Singh Sekhon (farmer and local resident) :
Drugs are a major issue here and in the villages in this sub division. The police is hand-in-glove in the drug trade, which is in the hands of ruling party political leaders. A central agency like the CBI or Directorate of Revenue Enforcement (DRI) should have its office here to crackdown on the drug mafia and event the Punjab Police officials involved.
4)Hardeep Singh (retired govt school principal) :
The town lacks proper educational facilities, particularly for higher education. We had a government college, which was doing well but the government decided to hand it over to the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU). It was an okay move but unfortunately while GNDU spent the funds given by the UGC under its University Colleges programme for rural areas but the state government's matching grant did not come. As a result this college lacks the necessary infrastructure. In the absence of state funds, a number of teaching posts are lying vacant.